18.11.19 - How To
How to Make Your Skin Lighter in 7 Effective Ways----- Back
Dark spots, freckles, acne scars, and an uneven skin tone are just some of the obstacles on the never-ending quest for clearer, lighter skin.
Beauty has been associated with having a fair complexion since the beginning of time. The desire for a lighter skin tone can be traced back to as early as the Nara Period in Japan (710-94) when women painted their faces white with a powder called oshiroi. Fast-forward to the 21st century: Thanks to advancements in science and medical research, there are now countless skin-lightening products on the market that are safe for long-term use.
Before buying these products, it's wise to know the difference between skin lightening and skin whitening so that you are aware of the benefits and risks of each method. After learning that, you can make safe changes to your daily routine to prevent your skin from turning darker. Knowing which skin lightening ingredients work will also help to resolve the issue of darker skin tone and pigmentation.
The Difference Between Skin Lightening and Skin Whitening
The terms “skin lightening” and “skin whitening” may sound like they mean the same thing. The truth is these two terms differ quite a bit, which we are going to explore below.
What Is Skin Lightening?
As the name suggests, skin lightening refers to using products or processes to lighten your skin colour as well as acne blemishes, age spots, sunspots, and so on. The change is usually gradual and happens over a longer period. Skin lightening also involves the use of melanin-inhibiting ingredients, both natural and synthetic, to achieve a lighter skin tone.
What Is Skin Whitening?
Skin whitening is a more aggressive method compared to skin lightening. It can be used interchangeably with “skin bleaching,” and often involves drastically changing your natural skin tone to a much whiter complexion. To do this, whitening creams that contain bleaching agents like hydroquinone and mercury are often used to inhibit melanin production. Given that these ingredients are potentially toxic for the skin and can give rise to other health complications, skin whitening is viewed as more dangerous than skin lightening.
Which Method Is Recommended?
While skin whitening may lighten your skin tone in a shorter period, this technique is often not recommended given its potential health implications. Instead, skin lightening is touted as a safer method without the adverse side effects.
What Causes Your Skin to Darken?
Melanin is the root cause of most pigmentation issues. For instance, sunspots and melasma occur due to excess melanin deposited in the dermis. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) happens when there’s an overproduction or uneven distribution of melanin after the skin becomes inflamed. Freckles, a natural condition caused by genetics, are skin cells that contain melanin.
To lighten your skin and resolve these pigmentation issues, it only makes sense to target melanin production in your skin. But how exactly is melanin produced?
The Science Behind Melanin Production
Melanin is produced in the melanocytes, the pigment cells found in the basal layer of the skin. Each melanocyte is surrounded by 36 keratinocytes to form the melanin unit. Once synthesised, melanin is transferred to these keratinocytes which causes the surrounding skin area to darken.
When melanin production or melanin transfer is altered abnormally, this causes the formation of age spots, freckles, melasma, acne scars, and even vitiligo. Vitiligo is a depigmenting skin disease that’s caused by oxidative stress to the melanocytes, leading to the loss of skin colour.
The most important enzyme that is needed in melanin production is tyrosinase. It acts by converting l-tyrosine to dopaquinone which then produces melanin. Other enzymes involved in melanogenesis are tyrosinase-related proteins (TRP-1 and TRP-2).
This is why most lightening skincare products contain ingredients that inhibit tyrosinase activity to reduce or prevent melanin production. These ingredients could be synthetic, like alpha arbutin. But more recently, natural ingredients like kojic acid and papaya extract have gained greater popularity as safer yet effective skin lighteners.
How to Make Your Skin Lighter
Before making your skin lighter, it's important to prevent your skin from turning darker in the first place. You can do this by using sunscreen, exfoliating regularly, and protecting your skin from environmental pollutants. Prevention is key since lightening your skin is often a lengthy and intensive process that can be avoided in the first place.
1. Use Preventative Sun Care
Most of the uneven skin issues such as age spots, melasma, and PIH can be aggravated or triggered by prolonged UV exposure. UV radiation generates free radicals, which stimulates melanin production to protect the skin from these harmful rays.
That’s why UV exposure creates a vicious cycle: Increased sun exposure promotes melanin levels in the skin, which causes darker skin. Existing hyperpigmentation may turn darker while new age spots, freckles, or melasma flare-ups may occur.
As such, you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 and above to prevent your skin from turning darker in the first place. Even if you are indoors, your skin is still susceptible to UVA rays which can pass through the windows. This means that whether you are indoors or outdoors, you should apply sunscreen on your face and body, particularly your neck, hands, and legs. You should also use a hat and a pair of sunglasses when you're outside for added protection against UV-induced pigmentation.
2. Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly
The keratinocytes in the top layer of the epidermis are renewed every four weeks. In other words, without regular exfoliation, dead skin cells are likely sitting on top of your skin right now. Besides making your skin dull, it's also causing your skin tone and blemishes to take a longer time to lighten.
Using physical and chemical exfoliants in your skincare routine will help to lighten your skin at a quicker rate since melanin is expressed in the keratinocytes. Physical exfoliants target the uppermost layer of the skin, thanks to their mechanical motions, which makes it great for superficial discoloration issues.
Chemical peels that contain skin-brightening ingredients like beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) can penetrate deeper into the dermis. This makes it ideal for addressing more stubborn blemishes. Chemical exfoliants also do not use abrasive motions which means they are great for sensitive skin types.
YORA’s Clarify Face Mask combines both physical and chemical exfoliants in one product. It contains bamboo beads and activated charcoal to lightly exfoliate and draw out impurities without over-sensitising your skin. Besides that, salicylic acid is added to penetrate deeply into your skin for a deep cleanse.
If you’re a fan of AHAs, choose the Revitalise Face Polish instead. It’s infused with glycolic acid to clear out clogged pores and remove dead skin cells. Moisturising PENTAVITIN®, vitamin E, aloe, and jojoba seed oil are also added to keep your skin supple and clear.
3. Protect Your Skin Barrier From Environmental Pollutants
You may have noticed a surge in anti-pollution skincare products recently and wonder if your skin needs them too. The answer is a definite yes.
Since most of us are living in urban areas, your skin is constantly at risk from pollutants like smog, radiation, chemicals, and even the blue light emitting from your smartphone and tablet.
Pollutants are the antithesis of healthy skin since they generate free radicals, which not only encourage premature skin ageing, but also increase melanin production. A 2007 study by the Department of Medical Physics at the University of Applied Sciences TFH Berlin explained that this is because melanin acts as a defence against free radicals.
It’s thus increasingly important to use the right products that will protect your skin from such pollutants to prevent your skin from turning darker. YORA’s Defence Face Serum is one such example as it is infused with FILMEXEL® to provide a barrier against external environmental factors. Top it off with the Revitalise Face Moisturiser, which provides added protection against free radical-causing pollutants.
4. Use Skin-Lightening Products in Your Skincare Routine
After taking the necessary steps that will prevent your current skin tone from turning darker, it’s time to go in-depth on what you can do to make your skin lighter.
Incorporating skincare products that contain skin lighteners in your routine is a definite must. When choosing a skin-lightening product, make sure it contains at least one of these ingredients:
- Azelaic acid: This popular skin ingredient is highly effective in lightening your skin without adverse skin complications. 20% azelaic acid is said to be as effective as 4% hydroquinone in treating melasma but without negative side effects.
- Arbutin: This substance can be derived from the bearberry, blueberry, cranberry, and pear trees. The Shiseido Research Center in Yokohama, Japan has found that arbutin inhibits melanosomal tyrosinase activity which makes it an effective skin-lightening agent.
- Bergamot: A 2019 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Nutrition pointed out the anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties of bergamot which help to reduce and prevent oxidative stress to the cells.
- Kojic acid: According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel, 2% kojic acid is safe for use as a depigmenting ingredient in cosmetics.
- Lactic acid: A 2014 clinical study conducted by the Rohilkhand Medical College and Hospital and the Shri Ram Murti Smarak Institute of Medical Sciences showed the effectiveness of 82% lactic acid peels in improving melasma significantly. Lactic acid also did not cause any side effects besides burning and was able to maintain the improved skin tone three months after the peel was done.
- Mulberry: The leaves of the mulberry plant contain polyphenols that have depigmentation properties. In a 2011 study by the Pharmaceutical Informatics Institute of Zhejiang University, the mulberry leaves showed an inhibitory effect of the tyrosinase enzyme, which makes it a natural skin lightener.
- Niacinamide: Based on a 2002 study by the Research and Development Department of Procter & Gamble Far East in Japan, niacinamide is a proven candidate as a skin-lightening agent given that it can inhibit melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes.
After putting on all your skincare products, apply an overnight face mask as the last step of your routine to seal in all the goodness. The sleeping mask will also work its hydrating and restorative powers as you sleep. To further boost a lightening effect on your skin, go for a face mask that also contains skin lightening ingredients.
5. Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Since free radicals stimulate the production of more melanin, it’s important to consume more antioxidant-rich foods. This is because antioxidants counteract the harmful effects of free radicals by donating an electron to stabilise them. As such, the free radicals are neutralised, which could downplay melanogenesis.
Antioxidants are naturally synthesised in your body or could be supplemented through external sources by eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables or taking oral supplements. The primary antioxidants you should include in your diet are vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and selenium.
To choose foods rich in these vitamins, go for:
- Berries like Kakadu plums, blueberries, strawberries
- Citrus fruits like oranges, kiwis, and lemons
- Dark leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach
If you’re interested in oral supplements, try YORA’s “beauty-from-within” skin supplement which contains carotenoids from lycopene and vitamin C. These two potent antioxidants work in tandem to combat free radical damage and make your skin lighter over time.
6. Give Microdermabrasion a Try
If you're looking to lighten your leftover acne blemishes, give microdermabrasion a try. This procedure involves a deep exfoliation of the skin to reveal new skin cells, even out skin tone, lighten PIH marks, and diminish fine lines and wrinkles. Repeated sessions are usually recommended for a marked improvement in your skin tone.
Do note that microdermabrasion should not be done on inflamed skin as the abrasive motions of the tiny crystals used in the procedure could aggravate your skin condition. Speak to your dermatologist first to determine whether you are suitable for one. Additionally, you may experience mild redness, dryness, or increased sun sensitivity after each treatment.
7. Consider Laser Therapy
Laser therapy is considered an expensive and time-consuming cosmetic procedure, so it’s recommended to try other alternatives before embarking on this route. Laser skin lightening procedures work by removing the outermost layer of the epidermis or damaging melanocytes in the skin.
According to the National Health Service, laser therapy usually requires one to two weeks of recovery and will leave your skin feeling extra-sensitive to sun exposure for up to six months. Also, the skin-lightening effects of laser therapy may vary for different individuals. Some may experience a marked improvement in skin tone, some may experience a temporary effect, and others may not experience any change at all.
Prevention and Maintenance Is Key
When it comes to making your skin lighter, prevention is better than a cure. Focus on sun care, exfoliation, and skin barrier protection to prevent your skin tone or blemishes from darkening. Once you have your prevention system in place, you can then turn your attention to lightening your skin tone and other pigmentation issues through using the right products and eating the right foods.
This two-pronged approach of prevention and maintenance will revamp your skincare routine and your diet to achieve lighter skin in a more natural and wholistic manner.